On my first visit to Deià twenty years ago I was lucky enough to meet Stephanie Shepard and Patrick Meadows. They lived in a small house at the point where the Clot joins the path down to the Cala and had one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen. Pat and Stephanie were at that time musical directors for the classical music concerts at Son Marroig and were kind enough to give us tickets for a performance. It was a night I won’t forget.
Every time I drive past Son Marroig and see its brilliant white gazebo framed by the mountains and the shifting sea, I think of Pat and Stephanie. Sadly, Stephanie passed away in 2005 but Pat was happy to tell me his Deià story and how the concerts at Son Marroig came to be.
How did you come to Mallorca, Pat?
The short version is that I lost my teaching job on Long Island and was working as a night watchman. It was 1970. Having published a few science fiction stories, I got the bright idea I could perhaps support myself with a typewriter. I told a friend I wanted to leave the country – the shootings at Kent State University had just happened – and he pointed me to a neighbour’s house in Brooklyn Heights.
‘She has a property for sale on Mallorca,’ he told me.
The price was exactly what I had paid into my retirement fund. I withdrew it from the Teachers’ Credit Union and the next day I gave her the cash. She put it under her stockings in a chest of drawers. Then she gave me a page torn from a spiral notebook with the name of the person who had the house key. I didn’t know where Mallorca was, but by Christmas my then wife and I were there to have a look. By summer we had moved in, setting the house up supposedly only for vacations.
That’s the short version. It usually gets me at minimum a glass of vino tinto.
When did you first see Deià?
I was living in Galilea, on the other side of the island. The writer Ruthven Todd, who was a neighbour, invited me to meet Robert Graves.
What was meeting Robert Graves like?
It’s quite a story. I met him through Ruthven but it’s the poet and translator Alastair Reid, then around forty, who is the main character in all this. Alastair had a hypnotic, reedy voice and told endless stories. By his own account, he knew most of the Latin American writers of note. He was a bit of a Don Juan. It was rumoured he’d taken off with the wife of the Time magazine correspondent in Brazil and he wasn’t too popular with various other husbands in London and New York.
After I was invited to meet Robert by Ruthven, I mentioned this to Alastair. ‘Whatever you do,’ he said, ‘don’t tell Robert I’m your friend’.
When I asked why he refused to answer.
It turned out that the occasion of my meeting with Robert was his 75th birthday. I was introduced to him and he asked ‘Do you know Alastair?’ Before I could stop myself I blurted out that yes, I did. Robert, who had been about to shake my hand, turned his back on me.
The next time I saw Alastair he told me the reason for the enmity between Robert and himself. He had run off to Greece with Margot Callas, one of the muses, and Robert had never forgiven him. Every time Alastair visited the village he hid under a blanket in the backseat of the car. Anyone Graves saw with him would be instantly excommunicated. During all the years I lived in Deià when Robert was alive, he never greeted me when we met in the street.
We did meet once, in the living room of Bud Flakoll and Claribel Alegría. She was known locally as the poet laureate of El Salvador. I occasionally commissioned a musical work for the festival and hoped to find a theme in her poetry. When he was presented to me, Robert pulled a large white handkerchief from his pocket and shook it in my face, as though whisking away a fly.
When I sold up in Galilea, I knew there was no better place to go than Deià, a true art colony.
Can you describe Deià back then?
It seems to me, looking back that Deià was a continuous tertulia – a kind of literary salon. The famous writer Jakov Lind held off other chess devotees at Sa Fonda. Mati Klarwein, Bob Bradbury, George Sheridan and others were painting. Daevid Allen was making his records. Suzie Bradbury was practicing piano. Stephanie Shepard was teaching Transcendental Meditation. It seemed to me that the village was seething with creativity, like Greenwich Village in the twenties and thirties or the Left Bank in Paris in the 1890s. To a certain extent, Deià still is a tertulia.
What did Deià give you?
The opportunity to fulfil many of my dreams. In retrospect, it seems I was reborn there. The great thing about Deià was that one was permitted to become what he or she wanted. All of us who settled in the village developed in our own way. The villagers put up with us and in most cases encouraged us to continue with whatever it was we were doing. To me it still feels like a place for unlimited personal growth, if that’s what one is looking for.
Could you describe your connection to Son Marroig?
Son Marroig, like the mountains of Mallorca, is a natural wonder, a dream place. When I was at university in Florida, I came across Goethe’s Elective Affinities. One scene stuck with me: in a castle in the mountains a woman played the flute, accompanied by a young man on the harpsichord. I never lost that vision and Son Marroig is its realisation. I organised the concerts at Son Marroig for nearly thirty years but handed over to the new Artistic Director Alfredo Oyagüez in 2008. Today, the Deià International Music Festival at Son Marroig is one of the few manifestations of high culture in the area and a beacon for art, along with the exhibits at the Resi and other places. Now we also have the ‘Veladas Musicales’ concerts in the Deià church to enjoy and my dream continues to manifest.
Thank you, Pat.
Experiencing the Deià International Music Festival, which runs until the end of September, is the perfect reason to visit Son Marroig. It’s one of the most magical places on the island and has a truly special atmosphere, particularly at sunset.
Read more of Pat’s story